PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston April 2023

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O n a sprightly winter day, I sat down with Leila McConnell and her gallery team led by owner/ director Sarah Foltz for a chat about her then- upcoming show (now on view at Foltz Fine Art, through Saturday, April 29). A series of canvases, spanning the 1960s through the 2010s, were arrayed in neat stacks throughout the historic interiors of this River Oaks gallery, which was once home to a business that taught ballroom dancing, back in the day. The honeyed floors and time-mellowed walls of Foltz Fine Art are appropriate for an artist who has stood the test of time — yet is also very now. McConnell is in her mid 90s. Published in many catalogs detailing bygone visual creators, with a CV boasting numerous shows, she is solidly placed in the vanishing echelons of mid-century Houston artists. However, her paintings — the focus of this retrospective at Foltz, "Somewhere Beyond" — appeal more for their extraordinary and singular aesthetics than the fact many were created more than a half-century ago. While McConnell appears regularly in scholarly articles and books produced by CASETA (Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art) and is often cited and exhibited in HETAG (Houston Earlier Texas Artist Group) projects, her artwork stands on its own by virtue of its visual merits. Those not familiar with her canvases will discover and revel in vaporous abstract paintings that brim with light and space while alluding to forms in nature, especially a vast, limitless sky. A McConnell Primer The spry artist, who still drives and is sharp as a tack, was casually but elegantly attired and coiffed; our conversation was a preamble to a more formal interview weeks later in her home. In person, McConnell maintains an erect, almost patrician bearing, warm and reserved, not wanting to make herself the center of attention. We touched lightly upon her remarkable history, as she deferred to Foltz, who presented me with a copy of Sally Reynolds' definitive book about the era when McConnell came up: Houston Reflections: Art in the City, 1950s, 60s and 70s (Rice University Press, 2008). McConnell On the occasion of her 50- year retrospective at Foltz Fine Art, the nonagenarian Houston artist reflects on a lifetime of artmaking. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS Artist Leila McConnell By Catherine D. Anspon. Photography Jack Thompson. Leila McConnell at home in her studio (Continued) 86

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